In the United States, there are about 400,000 breast cancer survivors younger than 45. Many of these women might want to have children. A study found that pregnancy doesn't negatively affect the future survival of women who've been diagnosed with breast cancer. These results were presented at the 2010 European Breast Cancer Symposium.
Hormones can promote the growth and spread of breast cancer. Hormone levels change during pregnancy, so doctors have been concerned that becoming pregnant after a breast cancer diagnosis might increase the risk of the breast cancer coming back or affect future survival. Some doctors have recommended that women not get pregnant after being treated for early-stage breast cancer.
This study is called a meta-analysis because it analyzes the results of several different studies. The researchers looked at the information from 14 studies comparing health outcomes, including survival, of between about 1,400 breast cancer survivors who did become pregnant to about 18,000 breast cancer survivors who didn't become pregnant.
Overall, breast cancer survivors who became pregnant had a 42% survival improvement compared to survivors who didn't become pregnant.
- Survival improvement ranged from 14% better to 79% better among the studies.
Researchers aren't sure why the women who got pregnant had better survival compared to women who didn't get pregnant. It could be that the improved survival seen among the women who became pregnant was due to better overall health and not because of being pregnant. So the researchers didn't jump to the conclusion that pregnancy after breast cancer treatment improves survival. Instead, their conclusion was that pregnancy doesn't negatively affect future survival among survivors.
If you're being treated for breast cancer or are a survivor and think you might want to become pregnant in the future, this study suggests that you can do so and not negatively affect your future survival. Learn more about fertility issues and planning for children after breast cancer treatment in the Breastcancer.org Fertility, Pregnancy and Adoption section.